Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) has said that Trinity’s investments in fossil fuels are “particularly concerning” in light of the recent IPCC report.
This comes after this newspaper reported that Trinity still has shares worth at least €8 million in companies directly involved in fossil fuel activities, despite saying it would divest from such companies several years ago.
In an email statement to The University Times, TCDSU Communications Officer Aoife Cronin said: “We’re incredibly disappointed to hear this news. Trinity’s failure to take appropriate action is particularly concerning in the light of the recent IPCC report, which stresses that we are all far behind our necessary climate targets.”
“Trinity made the decision to divest from fossil fuel shares in 2016 after months of student-led lobbying by Fossil Free TCD”, Cronin said. “TCDSU was proud to support this movement and the 2016 decision was an important testament to the power of student activism.”
“However, since then, Trinity has failed to take substantial action on an issue that impacts us all. If Trinity is to reach its goal as a world leader in sustainability, further work is needed.”
A statement to this newspaper from current and former members of Fossil Free TCD said: “TCD has failed to deliver on the moral position it took five years ago when it instructed Irish Life to divest its €222 million endowment fund from the Fossil Fuel industry. Divestment from fossil fuels is a public denouncement of companies involved in the destruction of our home. We hope that this disclosure is not just another example of the superficial greenwashing that is prolific in society today, dressed up in the shiny guise of meaningful progress.”
“We believe that Trinity can be a beacon in terms of sustainable change, but have been heavily disappointed with how this commitment to divestment has been handled”, the statement said. “This does not reflect the goals of this university, and undermines the very future it tries to pave the way for. Research from within our own institution highlights the dangers of fossil fuels reliance. In the wake of the recent damning IPCC report and increasing global tragic climate disasters, it is ever clearer that it is wrong to profit from the wreckage of the planet.”
“We welcome Provost Doyle’s commitment to engaging with students on the issue and request that TCD act quickly to fully divest from Fossil Fuels and demonstrate the new provost’s desire to move Trinity towards a more sustainable future. While we hope Provost Doyle will rectify this debacle, we are also keen that this event shines more light on the intransigence of the financial system. As scientists and leaders talk of the need to make greater commitments to renewable energy, our financial systems continue to funnel money to supporting new fossil fuel projects across the world.”
“Trinity through Irish Life should not be invested in any companies involved directly or indirectly in fossil fuel extraction, transportation and production. ”
Jim Breen, a spokesperson for Eamon Ryan, the leader of the Green Party, echoed the sentiments of TCDSU. In an email statement to The University Times, Breen said: “A recent International Energy Agency (IEA) report detailed that “no investment in new fossil fuel supply projects” or no new exploration for fossil fuels would be consistent with a net zero by 2050 scenario – to have a chance of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees.”
“Divestment from fossil fuels seeks to do two things: protect the investor from stranded assets; and also restrict investment in fossil fuel infrastructure (thus reducing future fossil fuel exploitation and combustion)”, he said.
“It is a matter for any asset manager as to their portfolio and the ethics that govern investment strategies and risk management strategies, both of which would encourage a serious re-examination of holding fossil fuel assets in light of the recent IPCC and IEA reports.”
In 2016, College announced it would divest from “companies whose primary business is in the extraction of fossil fuels”, in response to 15 months of campaigning by student activist group Fossil Free TCD.
Investments in companies with direct fossil fuel activities still represent approximately 3.6 per cent of the total Endowment Fund, according to the contents of College’s endowment fund, which was obtained by The University Times under the Freedom of Information Act.
This paper identified 85 companies out of a portfolio of 1757 investments that are directly involved or fund fossil fuel activities. These investments sum to just over €8 million.
From these, 11 companies are directly involved in the extraction of fossil fuels. These investments total nearly €950,000.
In an email statement to The University Times, Provost Linda Doyle said: “After a successful campaign by Fossil-Free TCD, students and staff, we took the decision to divest from fossil fuels. It was and remains the right decision.”
“Trinity’s investment fund is managed through Irish Life and they invest in sustainable portfolios on our behalf”, Doyle said. “If fossil fuels are somehow a part of our current investment portfolio, this would run contrary to our wishes and I will take action on this.”
She added that a group of staff and students will convene in autumn to discuss “ethical investment” and to review College’s current investment portfolio.
“It is important that our investments always align with our University’s Mission and we should prioritise things like Green investment as much as we can.”